The Language of Emotion



language of emotion

Last week, I talked about teaching point of view/perspective taking skills in therapy with younger students with ASD, ADD, and/or mild cognitive impairments.   This week, I am focusing on another social language concept, the language of emotions.  I use the emotion pictures from Super Duper Inc. (the scared lady in the picture above is my favorite!), characters in books and short animated clips with exaggerated expressions and role playing activities.  I like to work on broadening the skill far beyond labeling emotions to teach my littles how to be flexible thinkers!  You might want to also check out these previous blog posts for some other therapy ideas for emotions HERE and HERE .

We start by looking at pictures of facial expressions and labeling how we think someone might be feeling.  I point out the clues that help us figure out the emotion, such as the person’s eyes/eyebrows, mouth, body language, etc…  Teach the language first and practice simply matching to start with.  Yes, it’s very basic, but you want the kids to have the language of emotion in static pictures before they can move to more difficult interpretations of short video clips or real life interactions!  Don’t assume this is too easy for your littles!  Sometimes they have happy/sad, but not much more beyond that.

emotion hands


Next, I put the emotion pictures on headbands (the one in the top picture is from my Hedbanz (RT) game, but you can make your own).  I demonstrate that I want them to imitate the expression on my headband but not say the emotion label out loud (just copy the emotion with an expression). I then have to guess what the emotion is on my headband based on what they show me.  It’s a little tricky at first, but they catch on quickly.  We take turns and then look at our cards to see if our expressions and guesses match.  By the way, all of my kids try to see the card on their own heads the first few rounds.  It’s not going to happen buddy, you are going to sprain your eyeballs!

The ability to label emotions leads into more complex skills such as self-regulation.  Are you going to put your head down, cry and refuse to talk when something is hard or can you say, “I am frustrated.  I need help.” ? The language of emotion is critical for higher order thinking such as perspective taking and is ultimately a life skill, not just a language goal.

When my littles understand emotions and are able to use the labels consistently, then we are ready to move onto varied activities to practice this skill, such as my Oceans of Emotions packet in my TPT store.

Connecting how we feel to what we think and what we say, as well as learning to predict what others might be thinking and feeling, lays the foundation for social language success. The language of emotion is simply a stepping stone to be able to function in in a social environment more successfully!

What are some ways you work on the language of feelings?

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